Summer Program Trends — 2014-2016

NALP Bulletin, May 2017

Figures compiled from the most recent NALP Directory of Legal Employers (NDLE) show that over the most recent three-year period, 2014-2016, the aggregate number of second-year summer associates (2Ls) at listing firms has increased by about 12% and the average size of the program has increased only modestly, from 7.5 per office in 2014 to 8.1 per office in 2016. Moreover, it is evident that this modest growth has not occurred across all firm sizes or in all parts of the country.

Table 1 shows the total number of first-year (1L) and second-year (2L) summer associates reported by offices/firms in the 2016-2017 NDLE. From 2014 to 2016, the total number of 2Ls reported grew by not quite 700, from 5,763 to 6,459, and the number of 1Ls was up by about 100. The percentage of offices reporting at least one 2L increased from 87% of offices to 92% of offices. The percentage of offices hosting at least one 1L increased a bit, but remained at less than half.

However, looking at volumes by firm size shows that the largest firms of more than 700 lawyers accounted for the vast majority of the net growth, about 80%. Volumes in firms of 250 or more lawyers were virtually flat.

Looking at some of the largest markets represented in the NDLE shows that offices in New York specifically accounted for well over half of the net growth from 2014 to 2016, with offices in Washington, DC, a distant second in contributing to net growth. Offices in Chicago and the Los Angeles area have had fairly steady volumes, whereas the volume in Houston was greatest in 2015 and was down 15% in 2016 compared with 2015. The pattern is similar for 1Ls.

Average and median program sizes tell a similar story (Table 2). Whereas the average class size (based on offices reporting at least one 2L for the year being analyzed) grew from 9.3 in 2014 to 10.6 in 2016 at firms of more than 700 lawyers, average sizes were essentially flat in firms of 500 or fewer lawyers. Average sizes were up quite a bit, by about 5, in New York, but have been virtually flat in Chicago and Los Angeles, and have come down in Houston. Washington, DC, saw a small amount of growth in average figures.

A comparison of these average figures with those compiled in similar analyses from prior NDLEs shows that since 2013 the overall average size of 2L summer classes has varied only between about 7.5 and 8, but was highest in 2016. At the largest firms, figures have ranged from just over 9 to 10.6, with the highest figure again in 2016. And though numbers have recovered from the low of less than 6 in 2010, they are not at the level of more than 10 in summer 2009.

Finally, findings based on the NDLE do not necessarily match those from NALP’s annual survey of legal employers on recruiting, which has a smaller respondent pool made up largely of offices/firms that had a summer program and recruited for the upcoming summer, and also tends to have more firm-wide figures reported compared with the NDLE. However, in terms of overall trends, both sources point to growth since 2010, and modest increase in average class size over the past three years.

Notes on Methodology

These figures were largely compiled from the 2016 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Duplicative information, for example a firm-wide form in addition to office-specific forms, was excluded as were forms with no summer associates reported in the three-year period. Forms where the “expected” numbers for 2016 were not reported were excluded from Table 1. This includes forms where it was ambiguous as to whether the blank “expected” column meant zero or TBD. Forms for offices which had not been open for all three years covered by the form were excluded to the extent that this could be determined. Averages and medians reported in Table 2 are based on non-zero counts only.

In cases where the form was missing figures for the first of the three years (e.g., 2014 in the 2016 directory), those figures were looked up or cross-checked using the prior year’s directory, and these figures were used to fill in the grid. Forms where the cross-check wasn’t possible, and where a figure of zero seemed unlikely, were excluded. Finally, a few forms were excluded where the numbers seemed questionable in the context of the entire grid and/or in comparison to a cross-check with a listing for the prior year. In particular, there still appears to be some confusion about the distinction between when the person was hired and when the person began work, and about which is to be reported, and also about the meaning of the “prior summer associate” category.


Table 1. Summer Program Volumes — 2014, 2015, and Expected 2016

  Summer 2014 Summer 2015 Summer 2016 Expected # of
Offices
# of 1Ls % of Offices w/ 1Ls # of 2Ls % of Offices w/ 2Ls # of 1Ls % of Offices w/ 1Ls # of 2Ls % of Offices w/ 2Ls # of 1Ls % of Offices w/ 1Ls # of 2Ls % of Offices w/ 2Ls
Overall 884 46% 5,763 87% 941 47% 6,134 91% 983 48% 6,459 92% 867
By Firm Size (# of lawyers):
100 or fewer 67 44 195 84 57 43 207 87 66 39 199 93 82
101-250 118 61 545 89 113 61 557 91 127 57 553 92 109
251-500 196 53 938 81 229 57 939 88 213 55 1,001 90 169
501-700 113 41 755 89 103 36 809 87 136 53 795 89 112
701+ 390 42 3,330 88 439 42 3,622 93 441 44 3,911 94 395
Selected Cities:
Chicago 37 41 358 90 46 51 355 88 43 52 365 92 48
Houston 70 44 227 88 70 56 252 91 77 63 214 94 32
Los Angeles 35 36 303 88 41 33 310 96 33 28 339 94 65
New York 108 44 1,785 95 116 46 1,970 97 141 52 2,175 93 91
Washington, DC 66 43 650 92 64 37 703 92 84 41 755 98 86

Source: Compiled from the 2016-2017 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Figures are based on offices reporting summer program counts, including zero, for all three years. Please see the accompanying article for a description of the methodology for this report. The Los Angeles area includes offices in Long Beach, Santa Monica, and Century City.


Table 2. Summer Program Average and Median Sizes — 2014, 2015, and Expected 2016

  1Ls 2Ls
Average # of 1Ls 2014 Average # of 1Ls 2015 Average # of 1Ls 2016 Median # of 1Ls 2014 Median # of 1Ls 2015 Median # of 1Ls 2016 Average # of 2Ls 2014 Average # of 2Ls 2015 Average # of 2Ls 2016 Median # of 2Ls 2014 Median # of 2Ls 2015 Median # of 2Ls 2016
Overall 2.2 2.3 2.4 1.0 1.0 2.0 7.5 7.6 8.1 4.0 4.0 4.0
By Firm Size (# of lawyers):
100 or fewer 1.9 1.6 2.1 1.0 1.0 2.0 2.8 2.9 2.6 2.0 2.0 2.0
101-250 1.9 1.8 2.0 1.0 1.0 2.0 5.5 5.5 5.5 4.0 4.0 4.0
251-500 2.3 2.3 2.3 1.0 2.0 2.0 6.7 6.2 6.6 4.0 3.0 4.0
501-700 2.5 2.5 2.3 2.0 2.0 1.0 7.6 8.3 8.0 3.0 4.0 4.0
701+ 2.3 2.5 2.6 1.0 1.0 1.0 9.3 9.5 10.6 4.0 4.0 5.0
Selected Cities:
Chicago 1.9 1.9 1.7 1.0 1.0 1.0 8.2 8.3 8.3 3.5 4.0 4.0
Houston 4.8 3.8 3.9 2.0 2.0 2.0 8.0 8.4 7.1 5.0 5.0 4.0
Los Angeles 1.5 2.0 1.8 1.0 2.0 1.0 5.4 5.0 5.6 3.0 3.0 3.0
New York 2.7 2.8 3.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 20.5 22.1 25.6 8.0 9.0 9.0
Washington, DC 1.8 2.0 2.4 1.0 1.0 2.0 8.2 8.9 9.0 5.0 5.5 5.0

Source: Compiled from the 2016-2017 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Please see the accompanying article for a description of the methodology for this report. Averages and medians are based on offices reporting at least one summer associate in the category being reported. The Los Angeles area includes offices in Long Beach, Santa Monica, and Century City.

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